Back from a stint abroad, smooth songwriter Bobby Alu is the headlining act at the 2018 Gold Coast Music Awards.
Bobby’s slot at the beachfront event, part of the free music festival Surfers Paradise LIVE, will be a welcome return to his home turf. “I feel really honoured to be invited... it’s always good to go back to the start, to see how far you’ve come and to really try and give back to the place where you grew up,” he says.
Nominations for the 2018 Gold Coast Music Awards close this Friday, 2 March.
The award-winning drummer has spent much of the past six years touring globally with Xavier Rudd. “The best part for me is the volume of places you see… We’d wake up in Paris and then we’d hang out and play the show,” he says.
“And then the next day, we’d wake in London, and the day after we’d just be on the tour bus going 'round and 'round. Night after night, it’s a pretty awesome way to see the world.”
At the same time, Bobby was using whatever time he had off the tour bus to work on his own material.
In Sardinia, off the coast of Italy, he wrote new songs on the beach. In Ghana, he spent a month learning drumming techniques. “I just feel really lucky that I get to travel and I’m super grateful that my music can take me to all these different places,” he says.
As a solo act, Bobby becomes a multi-instrumentalist, singing and playing ukulele in addition to his drumming, to create what he calls “hammock music”.
Listeners can almost taste the sea salt that lingers on his flowing, laidback songs, as fresh harmonies and upbeat strumming is layered on an undercurrent of intriguing drum patters. “My music’s really cruisey,” he says.
“It gives me a chance to invite people into my studio in my bedroom and I can just play and do what I do.”
The songwriter’s organic approach to music can be traced back to his Polynesian heritage as well as a childhood of jamming with his mother and uncles. “When I used to go to family barbeques, there was always a guitar and ukulele and drums getting passed around, and everyone was just singing and hanging out.
"All the instruments I learnt were taught, basically, while my uncles were drunk at parties. And I was just a kid… I feel pretty lucky to have that background; for me, it just comes naturally to jam out and to share and play music with people.”
In the past six months, Bobby has been busy recording all the material he developed abroad. “I’ve been working on this new album for so long and I can finally see the end,” he says. “I’m super pumped and excited to get busy.”
Along with a handful of Parlour gigs, where Bobby will be performing “house concerts” in the backyards across Australia, audiences will get a taste of the new tracks at the GCMA.
“For me it feels really amazing to do all this travelling, but then equally as amazing to return home and actually play where it all began,” Bobby says.